San Marcos, Ocotepeque is a city in Western Honduras, bordering Guatemala and El Salvador. The area economy is agricultural in nature and depends on coffee, corn, cabbage, sugar cane and onions. The terrain is mountainous with high altitude, highly suited for growing coffee. It is located in the Copan Coffee Region, one of six distinctive coffee growing regions in Honduras. The Copan Coffee Region is characterized as producing specialty coffee with “full robust flavor with hint of chocolate”. Finca Lopez (Lopez farm) is located within 10 minutes of San Marcos and grows coffee, as do surrounding farms with a growing season between November and February. Cesar Lopez left the area as a young teen and came to the United States. He was cared for by The Children’s Center, Inc. and is now a U. S. citizen. Cesar and his family live in the Houston-Galveston area. He and brothers have helped his parents develop a coffee farm.
The Children’s Center’s representatives have spent time with the Lopez family at their farm in San Marcos. There are labor shortages on farms during coffee harvesting season. Many of the youth leave the area for other opportunities. Farmers must seek temporary laborers, at times from other countries, to harvest their crops. Discussion with the Lopez family has focused on poor employment conditions in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa and the utilization of at-risk youth in the growing and production of coffee. The Lopez family is committed to supporting youth in a pilot transitional program that would provide housing, employment and support, creating opportunities for independent living. There is potential for employment on many of the surrounding farms in the proposed project area.
The proposed program would include provision of lodging, food, personal care, home and community activities to establish quality of life. It would involve assessing life skills and providing mentoring in life skill development, work training, money management and savings for independent living. The intent is to create a pilot project that will be replicated on other farms to help support youth interested and willing in these options as an alternative to poverty and the danger of life on the streets of San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and other cities, often leading to perilous immigration to the United States.